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The Community of Hungerford Theatre Company - Gone With the Books

21st to 22nd September 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Ups and downs in literary 'farce'

The Community of Hungerford Theatre Company Players: Gone With the Books, at at the Corn Exchange, Hungerford, on Friday, September21 and Saturday, September 22

In Kate’s chaotic literary agency, Eve turns up to submit her manuscript and is mistaken for the new joiner who is supposed to sort out the accounts. The agency are afraid that they are about to lose their main money-spinning author, Andrea Hartley, to a rival agency.

Two spies from the rival agency get into the office and steal Andrea’s latest manuscript, and when the staff discover the loss, Eve decides to substitute her manuscript for the stolen one. With mistaken identities and someone locked in the cupboard, the play has, as the programme says, “overtones of farce”.

But the play didn’t really establish what it was meant to be. The pace was fast, as befits farce, but apart from a few one-liners there were very few laughs in it.

The agency was run by bossy Kate (Jennifer Hyde), who strode around terrorising her staff. Sue (Chrissy Marsh) answered the phone, and befriended Eve, played by Hoffi Munt who also wrote the play. Tania (Kathy Bossom) was the severe manuscript reader, who disliked Eve from the start. Diane (Roushka Munt) was scatty, but with a sharp tongue.

Barry Waddell was the caretaker who coughed over everyone, and Karen Ashby gave a good portrayal of Andrea as an aging hippy. The two spies were played by Charlotte Shanahan and Tessa Brown.

The set design was good, in two parts with the cluttered office on the left, tiered, so that we could see all the action (but no computers?), and the empty library on the right. However, its construction was basic, with the sliding doors threatening to fly away each time they were used.

The acting was generally good, although it wasn’t helped by the venue's poor acoustics.

The characterisation was particularly good, under director David Clayton, with each character clearly differentiated from the others. Sacrificing realism for pace (as with the locked cupboard and the tied hands) was a valid choice, but other areas could have done with some sharpening up: there would have been more reaction in the office when Sue heard that her son’s head was stuck in the school railings.

The production had its ups and downs, but it’s always good to see groups showcasing local writers.